Nelson's Originair grounding should be over soon says Inglis

Originair managing director Robert Inglis with one of the Nelson airline's Jetstream aircraft.
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ

Originair managing director Robert Inglis with one of the Nelson airline's Jetstream aircraft.

Nelson airline Originair has ended its association with former operator Air Freight NZ but expects to by flying again before long, says managing director Robert Inglis.

It intended to operate mainly in the charter market and to resume the Nelson-Palmerston North run, he said, either with another operator or by gaining its own operating certificate.

The Civil Aviation Authority put restrictions on Air Freight NZ's aircraft operating certificate after safety concerns were raised earlier this year, preventing it from flying Originair's two British Aerospace Jetstream 32s.

Originair then contracted another operator, Airwork NZ, to pick up its Nelson-Palmerston North and Nelson-Wellington routes using Metroliners.

That arrangement finished at the end of March and Originair has not flown since.

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Inglis owns one of the two Jetstreams and leases the other from Inflight NZ, a subsidiary of Airwork NZ.

He said CAA had not provided him any details of its investigation into Air Freight NZ, which has recently concluded.

"We are making plans to modestly operate our aircraft again, but not with Air Freight NZ."

Originair had the opportunity of operating with another company, and was also considering obtaining its own operating certificate.

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When that was worked through the airline would "continue to operate some modest charter services and some peak-time schedule work that is hopefully of some use to the community".

The off-season was approaching and there was "no great rush", Inglis said. 

"We'd rather get it structured correctly and look ahead 10 years, not the next month or so."

The removal of Originair check-in signage at Nelson Airport was standard practice at airports today, with the desk work being contracted out, and signs going up only when flights were imminent. 

"You can't have grandfather rights. When you operate, you can put your signage up and off you go."

He said Originair had never for a moment pretended to be "doing anything major". 

"It's just providing another option for charter services for all types of work, and a little bit of modest scheduled service to go with it."

The airline still employed two staff.  People handling check-in and tarmac duties now worked for the contractor Aerocare, and nobody had lost a job. 

Originair began flying the Nelson-Palmerston North route in mid-August last year, and added Nelson-Wellington in September.

The Wellington market changed "dramatically" once Jetstar began offering flights to Nelson, Inglis said. 

CAA corporate communications spokesperson Mike Richards said the investigation into Air Freight NZ's operation of Originair flights had "validated some of [the] safety concerns" initially raised.

Conditions on the carrier's operating certificate relating to Originair were still in effect should the airline decide to contract Air Freight NZ in future, he said.

 - Stuff

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